NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. -- There are some uniform numbers that carry more significance than others in New England. Kevin Faulk's No. 33, which he wore for 13 seasons, is part of that group.
Running back Leon Washington, speaking to students at North Attleboro Middle School on Wednesday, announced that he will wear Faulk's old number this season for the Patriots, with Faulk's blessing.
"Obviously I'm grateful for Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick giving me an opportunity to wear that number," Washington said. "I understand the history behind that number."
Washington, who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots on March 14, said he spoke to Faulk recently about donning No. 33, which was not assigned to any player following Faulk's retirement last October.
"He's a guy that, not only on the football field, did things so well in the locker room with the guys. You hear the stories," Washington said. "I just want to represent (the number) the best way that I can."
The Patriots faced a similar situation in recent seasons, when former linebacker Tedy Bruschi's No. 54 was assigned to veteran guard Brian Waters (in 2011) and rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower (in 2012). The team has not held a ceremony to retire a number since honoring Bruce Armstrong (No. 78) in 2001.
"When it comes down it, (it's about) playing football and not focusing on the number on my back," Washington said. "Just trying to go out there and make plays and hopefully that takes care of itself."
The 30-year old Washington was at the school to congratulate students on their fundraising efforts for the American Heart Association, which have totaled over $700,000 over the past 15 years.
"I can relate to (the cause) because I was right there with (his father-in-law) when he had a stroke," Washington said. "It's something dear to me. It's always important to give back."